The Village of Port Washington North presented information at its meeting Tuesday night for its newly proposed plans to establish a fully accessible playground in the village, addressing concerns from residents who live in neighborhoods bordering the area of land.
Mayor Robert Weitzner said the park, which would be located on a 4.75 acre plot of land near Channel Drive, is planned to include an accessible park to be inclusive for children with disabilities, a new village hall and a parking lot.
The village obtained the land proposed for the project in May 2022, which was previously zoned for light industry. He said this gave the village the ability to determine what to develop the land for.
The proposed park would also include an accessible quarter-mile walking path, potentially including sensory stations for individuals with autism.
“I think the inclusive nature of this is something that is so important to this community that we have to make this work,” Trustee Matthew Kepke said. “It will be really nice to have children’s laughter at a playground in Port North.”
Weitzner said that there is a need for accessible playgrounds in the area to cater to children of all abilities, which he said is currently not adequate locally.
“Inclusivity is different than accessibility,” Weitzner said. “Accessibility means people with handicaps, people with wheelchairs, walkers, etc. have the ability to use the equipment. Inclusivity, inclusive playgrounds, expands that to include children who are on the autism spectrum.”
He said the project is estimated to cost $1.35 million.
The village has been applying for grants to secure funding for the park, including $500,000 from the federal government and another $500,000 from the state’s parks departments. Weitzner said they have also received pledges of $200,000 combined from the county and their state assemblywoman.
The village established an advisory committee that will provide suggestions to the board of trustees in establishing the park. The committee includes members of the board, as well as community members such as Stella Spanakos, co-founder of The Nicholas Center.
“As a board, we need to drive this home to be the best inclusive playground in New York, if not the United States,” Kepke said.
The project also includes plans for a new village hall, which Weitzner said the Port North is in need of.
The mayor said the village has never owned its own village hall since its inception in 1932. He said Port North has already outgrown its current village hall space and is in need of a new space.
“There’s no reason why this village could not have a village hall to call its own,” Weitzner said.
The funding for the village hall and the parking lot would be financed by the village, Weitzner said.
The plot of land where the playground, village hall and parking lot are proposed, borders the neighborhood of Mill Pond Acres. Currently, a buffer of trees runs along the border of the neighborhood.
Multiple neighboring residents of the future park shared concerns with the board about potential noise disturbances.
Weitzner said that while some trees on the property will be removed for the development, the village plans to keep that tree buffer in order to create a sound barrier and foster privacy.
The mayor reassured the residents that no decision would be made without the neighbors’ livelihood in mind, which will be addressed to a further extent when plans progress for the park.
Despite the residents’ concerns, multiple of them still expressed support for the playground and its inclusive design.
Weitzner said there is currently no concrete timeline for the land development as it is dependent on the funding they secure. No engineering has been conducted and no designs have been developed, and the mayor said there is always a chance for plans to change.
Weitzner said he is hopeful the park will be completed by 2025, but delays in financing could push the project’s completion further out.
The board also approved issuing a proclamation for resident Edward Chang and his home garden that he shares with the rest of the community.
Chang is being recognized by the village for being an exceptional resident for his efforts in cultivating his home garden and sharing seeds, fruits and vegetables from his garden with anyone that stops by.
The board also approved a three-year snow removal contract with Creative Snow.
The Port Washington North Board of Trustees will convene again at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 12.